Published in The Chagrin Valley Times
May 10, 2018
When the Chagrin Falls boys lacrosse team traveled to rival Kenston, the final score appeared to indicate that the host Bombers were having a down year during the one-sided affair on Friday night in Bainbridge Township.
The Tigers took command of a 5-0 lead in the first quarter and never slowed down in an eventual 14-2 victory, improving their record to 10-1 with a No. 2 ranking in Northern Ohio, according to Burning River Lacrosse’s coaches poll.
But Kenston is having anything but a down year. In fact, the Bomber laxers entered the game with a 13-1 record, tied for the most wins in their program history. Not to mention, Kenston’s high-powered offense was averaging 15 goals per game.
“I think everything just went right for us tonight,” Chagrin Falls second-year head coach Paul Corto said. “We had a solid game plan, and sometimes the ball just bounces your way. So, each shot was going in when some of these shots early in the season just weren’t going our way.
“And the boys came focused. They were ready to play, and I couldn’t be prouder of the way that we showed discipline and execution. We executed at an extremely high level tonight. I couldn’t be prouder.”
Chagrin Falls improved its series advantage against Kenston to 10-2, including six straight victories against the Bombers. The 12-goal spread on Friday night was the largest margin of victory in 12 meetings between the two programs.
Igniting the Tigers’ offense in the first quarter, sophomore attackman Cameron Owen dished out three assists, while senior attackman Kaeden Kalinyak buried a pair of tallies and had an extra-man assist to senior midfielder Cade Salyers, senior attackman Mark McGinley had a goal and an assist, and junior middy Jake Guzik had a goal.
Getting the nod for his first start in the eighth game of the season, Owen has stepped up tremendously to complement four-year varsity attackmen McGinley and Kalinyak, Corto said.
“He’s been playing really well for us,” the coach said. “In the Revere game, we gave him the start – that was his first start. He had three goals and five assists in that game. He’s really quick, he’s got great vision, and he’s a great addition to Mark and Kaeden. So, he’s rounded out the attack and made us deeper.”
With Chagrin sophomore faceoff specialists Will O’Brien and Johnny Cashy combining to win eight of 12 battles at the X in the first half, the Tigers’ offense continued to go to town in the second quarter, building an 8-0 lead before the Bombers could answer.
Salyers, sophomore midfielder Connor Brosnan and McGinley all buried unassisted tallies, after Chagrin’s first five goals came on helpers, and before Kenston senior attackman Brian Apshago was able to score off an assist from sophomore midfielder Val Carriero for the 8-1 score with 7:10 to go in the half.
McGinley then assisted junior midfielder Alex Morris to put the Tigers up, 9-1, at halftime.
“We were very hungry,” McGinley said. “This is a big game every year, but I was especially excited this year. You’ve seen us play in the beginning of the year and now, and I think you can tell we’re peaking at the right moment and we’ve definitely improved.
“So, it’s good seeing us play good teams at the beginning of the year, middle of the year and now and seeing how we’ve come along. And I think the scoreboard says it. We’re really improving, and I think we’re hitting our stride at the right time. So, this game was a really fun, an emotional game, a lot of people in the stands.”
Between the pipes, Chagrin Falls 6-foot-6 junior lefty Otto Bergmann was getting busy on a 12-save performance, dialing in to stop 85.7 percent of the Bombers’ shots on goal. And, thanks to his defense, 53.8 percent of Kenston’s shots were on target, while 67.6 percent of Chagrin’s shots were on cage.
“Well, I really give credit to my defense,” Bergmann said. “They give me the shots I can save and few that I got that I was kind of fortunate that I was able to close on. I give it all to my goalie coach, coach (John) Murphy. He’s been helping me a lot with my tight-in shots.
“We sort of knew they would come in and shoot tight, and so in practice we would work on defending tight shots. And then we knew they were just a good shooting corps in general, so we just worked on everything, really.”
Stats-wise, Chagrin senior defenseman Patrick Holland caused three turnovers and collected four ground balls and assisted McGinley on a 13-2 tally off a clear in transition with 4:40 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Sophomore long-stick midfielder Clark Reboul also had four groundballs, while sophomore pole Lucas Gaizutis is playing as good as any defenseman in the state, Corto said.
“We matched up in man, but we went into a zone,” the coach said. “We felt that we wanted to give our goalie an opportunity to make some saves. We feel that good about his capabilities and being able to match up.
“Lucas Gaizutis, we feel, is playing as good as any defenseman in the state. He stopped (Cam) Stopak from Hoover to no goals and an assist early in the year, and he’s matched up on every team’s best attackman so far. Same thing tonight – three outstanding attackmen that are all having solid years, but Lucas is playing outstanding.”
While Chagrin owned a 9-1 upper hand at intermission, the Tigers also owned an 8-3 halftime lead against Division I juggernaut Hudson in their previous game last Tuesday, before the Explorers came out and scored four unanswered goals in the third quarter to get back in the game. Chagrin needed goals from Owen and Brosnan in the final three minutes of the game to secure the 10-9 victory.
Refusing to relinquish their lead against Kenston, the Tigers outscored the Bombers, 3-1, in the third quarter on Friday night’s affair, starting with an unassisted tally by Morris on a horizontal dodge.
Then, after Kenston’s Clay Barkan assisted fellow senior attackman Jack Rogers to cut the deficit, 10-2, Chagrin’s McGinley dumped an assist into heavy crease traffic for Kalinyak to finish on a trick shot.
Finally, senior Chagrin defenseman Christoph Sontich intercepted a Kenston clear attempt, tossed it ahead to Brosnan, who then assisted Owen on a point-blank breakaway for the 12-2 upper hand on an extra-man tally.
“We talked a lot about managing the emotions and the emotional intelligence that it takes to go through a season, and we used that (Hudson) win as momentum,” Corto said. “And we looked at it in no other way than we had momentum coming into this and we want to be playing our best lacrosse at the end of the year, which we feel we’re doing right now. We just kind of took what we did well in that (Hudson) game, and it translated into 48 minutes this time.”
Chagrin put the Bombers to bed with two more goals in the fourth, first on that previously mentioned assist from defenseman Holland to McGinley and then an extra-man tally, when Morris buried a sniper off the crossbar off an assist from McGinley.
With his third goal, McGinley became Chagrin Falls’ all-time leader with 150 career goals, besting a program mark by 2015 graduate Griff Stephens, who propelled the Tigers to a state championship with two goals and two assists in a double-overtime victory against Mariemont his senior campaign.
A freshman that season, McGinley actually assisted one of Stephens’ goals in the title game.
“I got to play with him for a year, which is pretty cool, and I’ve grown up with him,” McGinley said. “So, it was definitely pretty amazing. Records are meant to be broken, and he set the standards pretty high. I mean, 150 goals in a career is a lot, and I think he’s taught me a lot about what I’ve done on the field. So, it means a lot that it’s his record that I’m breaking.
“He was just a really smart player, and, at the beginning of that season, he kind of mentored me. I was not really ready my freshman year at the beginning of the season, and they brought me along, specifically him. So, he’s always been there for me.”
Despite its only loss coming in 11-10 fashion against University School on April 13, Chagrin Falls earned the No. 1 seed in the Division II, Region 6 playoff bracket, while the Preppers earned the No. 2 seed and Kenston got the No. 3 seed, as voted by the coaches on Saturday.
On Tuesday, the Tigers improved to 11-1 with a 12-11 road victory against Western Reserve Academy, led by McGinley’s two goals and three assists to become Chagrin’s all-time leader for career assists, 91, and points, 244 – both marks previously held by 2015 grad Stephens.
Chagrin Falls will conclude its regular season against Shaker Heights at 7 p.m. Thursday at C.S. Harris Stadium, before opening up playoff action on May 14 against the winner of Saturday’s Orange-Uniontown Lake game.
“I think, in the beginning of the year, we were a little complacent at times during practice, and the coaches made it an emphasis that intensity in practice correlates to the games,” McGinley said. “You practice way more than you play, so, if you’re going to play hard during practice, it’s going to correlate to the field. We’ve really been doing it. We’ve been going hard during practice, and I think it’s been really fun. I think you can definitely tell.”
Visit The Chagrin Valley Times to view their photos.